Saturday’s Game Report: Pirates 7, Cardinals 6

Saturday’s Game Report: Pirates 7, Cardinals 6

By Rob Rains

The story of the 2023 Cardinals really could be boiled down to what happened in the ninth inning on Saturday night.

With their top two options to pitch the ninth inning with a one-run lead, Ryan Helsley and JoJo Romero, unavailable, the Cardinals turned to Drew VerHagen to try to get the last two outs.

But a hit batter and then a home run to pinch-hitter Joshua Palacios cost VerHagen his first major-league save and handed the Cardinals another blown save.

Almost more frustrating was the bottom of the ninth inning, when Tommy Edman led off with a single and Jordan Walker was hit by a pitch. A sacrifice bunt from Masyn Winn moved the tying run to third and the would-be winning run to second.

They stayed at those bases, however, as Lars Nootbaar struck out and Paul Goldschmidt grounded out, giving the Cardinals another one-run loss and once again dropping their record to 20 games below .500.

The blown save was the 26th of the season for the Cardinals and they fell to 12-24 in one-run games. They also fell to 3-9 against the Pirates.

Here is how Saturday night’s game broke down:

At the plate: All of the Cardinals runs came on three home runs – a three-run homer by Tyler O’Neill in the second, a solo homer from Nootbaar in the fifth and a two-run homer by Walker in the seventh that temporarily gave the Cardinals a 6-5 lead … The Cardinals had only three at-bats with a runner in scoring position, O’Neill’s homer in the second and the two empty at-bats in the ninth … Nolan Gorman was 0-of-4, extending his current slump to just two hits in his last 31 at-bats.

On the mound: The Pirates first three runs came off starter Drew Rom, who allowed five hits, walked three and struck out one in 4 2/3 innings …They broke the 3-3 tie with two runs in the sixth off Jacob Barnes … Giovanny Gallegos worked a scoreless seventh and John King the eighth, and he he also got the first out in the ninth before VerHagen relieved, hitting the first batter he faced, Andrew McCutchen, before the home run by Palacios.

Key stat: The Cardinals best three hitters in the ninth inning this season have been Walker and Nootbaar, each with 10 hits, and Edman, who leads the team with 11 ninth-inning hits but he has had more at-bats, 37, leaving him with a .297 average.

Worth noting: VerHagen is now 0-of-6 in his major-league career in save opportunities. His last save came in 2015 when he was pitching in the minor leagues for Detroit … The last Pirate to hit a lead-flipping home run in a game they were losing in the ninth inning in St. Louis came from Dave Clark off Mike Perez in 1993 … Before the game the Cardinals claimed outfielder Mike Siani off waivers from the Reds and optioned him to Memphis.

Looking ahead: Zack Thompson will get the start on Sunday as the Cardinals try to avoid being swept in the series. Adam Wainwright had been the scheduled starter but he will move back to next Thursday to give him a final career start in Atlanta. The delay also keeps him from having to pitch in Cincinnati next weekend.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

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